It’s time for the next tutorial in the series on file management for your mobile devices. Last time I shared how to easily transfer files between mobile devices, like an iPhone and iPad. Today I’ll talk about getting images off of your device and on to your computer, as well as how to do a bulk delete of files on your device.
First off, let’s talk about WHY you want to transfer your image files to your computer…
It’s easy to think of our mobile devices as small computers, and as such they can be our photo archive, but they aren’t. A mobile device can be easily lost or damaged beyond operation, and if you haven’t backed it up recently, everything you have is lost. Automatic online backup and storage services for mobile devices give you limited storage before you have to pay, and it can get expensive if you are generating a lot of image files.
Along with the loss/damage factor, mobile devices have limited data storage. Even as technology progresses and available storage on devices gets larger and cheaper, the file management tools are not great. Have you ever tried to find a specific image if you have thousands on your Camera Roll? Yeah, it’s very difficult. I’ve found that having thousands of images on your Camera Roll can cause apps to bog down and crash. It’s better to keep a limited number of images on your Camera Roll, and clean it off periodically.
A laptop or desktop computer has more tools for file management, archival and backup. My computer is where my permanent archive of image files resides, regardless of the device I used, dSLR, iPhone or iPad, to create the photo. I just need to get the files from the devices to the computer periodically, and then delete them from the device.
Direct Transfer between Device and Computer
Did you know, if you connect your iPhone or other mobile device into your computer, it shows up as an external drive? That makes it very easy to access the DCIM folders where images are located, and then copy them over to your computer.
1. Connect your device to the computer via USB.
2. Allow iTunes to complete its sync and backup routine if you have that set up to happen automatically when you connect your device. Once iTunes has completed the sync, eject the device from iTunes. DO NOT CONTINUE until you’ve ejected the device in iTunes or your device can hang up later in the process.
3. Navigate to the device folders and copy your photos. This is a little different depending on whether you are using a Windows PC or Mac.
For Windows, in an Explorer window, scroll down to find Computer on the left navigation bar. Find your device in the list below Computer, and then navigate the the DCIM folders.
On Apple devices, the folders containing images files are cryptically named, one level below DCIM. Since the folder names are not very helpful for finding the files of interest, you will need to open the folders to see what images are in each of them. Once you find the image you want to copy, select it by clicking on it. To select all in a folder, use Ctrl-A. Once you have your images selected, you can right click and select “Copy,” then navigate to the folder you want to copy them to, right click and select “Paste.” You can also drag and drop the selected files to the folder on your computer.
All of the images will be copied to the new folder. Repeat this for all folders, until all of the images on the device have been copied to the computer. Note, you will not be able to MOVE files from an Apple device to a folder on your computer, only copy.
On a Mac, go to your Applications folder and open Image Capture app. In the devices column on the left, you will see your device. Select the files here to import.
Importing into Lightroom from Device
If you are using Lightroom or another photo organization software for your photo file management on your computer, then you can import photographs directly from your device into the software. This is how I typically copy files over from my device.
Similar to the procedure above, connect your device to the computer via USB and allow iTunes to complete backup and sync, then eject it before continuing.
In the Lightroom Import dialog box, select your device as the Source. Lightroom will identify the new photos on the device, and then you can select where you want them to import in your catalog structure and change any other settings. Once you have finished your selections, click Import.
The files will be imported into your catalog. Note that you can only copy the files from the device, you can’t move or delete them from the device along with import.
I’ve found that Lightroom will not import PNG files or videos, so you will have to copy those types of files to your hard drive using the direct method above.
After I get my images into Lightroom, I flag the final image files and add the titles as keywords so I can quickly find them later. Since I do all of my printing from Lightroom, I also created virtual copies which are adjusted for printing.
Deleting Image Files from your Device
Once you have your image files transferred to your computer hard drive (which has an automatic back up in place, right?), you can delete them from your device.
On Apple devices there is no quick and easy way to do a bulk delete of images from your Camera Roll. All of the methods involve selecting each image and then deleting, which is not an efficient method when you might have hundreds or thousands of image files to delete.
You can use the direct connection to the computer for a bulk delete as well. The same way you navigate to the directories to select and copy files to the computer, you can select and delete files from the device.
On Windows, to do a bulk delete, navigate to the folder under DCIM which has the old files you want to delete. Ctrl-A to select all, then right click and select Delete.
If you get an error that the device is disconnected or a file type cannot be deleted, you may have a file in the folder that the device will not allow Windows to delete. If that happens, unselect file types that are not image files, and then try again to delete.
On a Mac, go to your Applications folder and open Image Capture app. In the devices column on the left, you will see your device. Select the files here individually or using Cmd-A to select all, and then Delete.
Note, you will not be able to delete the folders below DCIM once they are cleared out. These are managed by your device. The next time you connect your device to the computer, you will see empty folders have been removed.
Now you know how to quickly move your image files to a computer for long-term archive and backup, and clean up your Camera Roll by doing a bulk delete.
You’ll want to figure out a regular maintenance schedule for doing this. I copy the image files off of my devices to my computer at least once or twice per month, sometimes more depending on what I have going on, and delete images off of my Camera Roll every couple of months. This keeps things working well on my device, I can find and print the files I want, and I know they are safely archived and backed up.
You might notice that when you delete images off of your Camera Roll, they disappear from your albums too. What do you do if you want some image files permanently on your device, for things like sharing your portfolio or textures you commonly use for editing? I’ll share how to create permanent folders on your device in the next File Management Mobile Tutorial. Stay tuned!